It all adds up to a Congress left in the political dark on a sensitive issue with potentially serious national security implications — not to mention the effects on a future Trump bid for the White House. However, some are imploring patience.
“As I said to my Republican friends, let the process unfold,” said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.), who raised his hand to form a “zero.” when asked how much information his panel has received about the DOJ probe so far. “I can not choose [different] parts of the legal system.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a former FBI special agent who occasionally crossed Trump, offered his own gut check on the gap between lawmakers’ surveillance goals and the rocky road to uncovering relevant details.
“The reality is this: No one – no one in the press, no one in Congress – knows the answer to the question ‘Was it justified or not?’ “, Fitzpatrick said of the Mar-a-Lago search. “We don’t know. We don’t have enough information.
Congress faces obvious hurdles as it tries to navigate its way through Trump-related investigations currently underway: Sometimes the agencies it seeks information from cannot sufficiently respond to Hill’s requests. And, indeed, so far congressional investigations since the FBI’s Aug. 8 raid on Mar-a-Lago have had only one victory: the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has begun a formal review. potential damage to national security resulting from Trump’s mismanagement. classified documents at his home.
But this assessment is already pending.
Intelligence officials halted their work, citing a federal judge’s recent ruling in favor of Trump’s request for an independent arbiter known as a special master to review seized documents for potentially privileged material.
That same delay also affects briefings for the upper echelon of often shorthanded Congressional and Intelligence Committee leaders like the Gang of 8 — even though the move appeared to contradict the Justice Department’s position in a recent court filing.
Prosecutors told Judge Aileen Cannon last week that they did not interpret her decision to appoint a special master as prohibiting officials from briefing lawmakers “with intelligence oversight responsibilities regarding classified records that have were recovered” from Trump’s home in Florida.
“We have access to all of the most sensitive information…regardless of any court cases or outstanding issues. So I just don’t understand why they’re hiding behind this,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee. (Rubio signed a Warner-led request for the Director of National Intelligence Review, in addition to full access to seized documents.)
In the meantime, Warner called on Cannon to “provide clarification as soon as possible,” citing the urgent need for a formal briefing. He also pledged to maintain the bipartisan nature of his panel’s request for information, which other congressional committees cannot boast of.
That hasn’t stopped other panels from jumping into the Trump surveillance fray, exploring everything from the former president’s handling of records to allegations of politicization at the DOJ that were presented during the committee’s public hearings. restricted from January 6. The House Oversight Committee on Tuesday asked the National Archives and Records Administration to determine whether other presidential documents from Trump’s tenure remain untraceable.
Oversight chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (DN.Y.), who recently lost her primary candidacy, noted in writing that Archives officials told her committee that the agency was “uncertain that all presidential records are in his custody.
Still, the Archives has already told lawmakers it has distanced itself from the DOJ’s ongoing investigation, which is examining potential violations of the Presidential Records Act, the Espionage Act and Obstruction of Justice. . So it’s unclear whether the agency can even complete the full accounting sought by Maloney’s committee.
Across the aisle, House Republicans are demanding information related to the FBI’s rationale for the search for Mar-a-Lago. They also sow doubt about the national security risks of Trump’s handling of the documents given that congressional leaders were never given advance notice of the federal investigation.
“We should definitely be made aware of what’s there,” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), a member of the intelligence committee. “We haven’t seen anything… I just don’t see Donald Trump packing up all these records himself and hauling them around in his car.”
In addition to the Mar-a-Lago investigation, the Senate Judiciary Committee this week launched its own investigation into new allegations of undue political interference at Trump’s DOJ. In his initial letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) quoted extensively from former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman’s new book, which details allegations of politically motivated prosecution decisions at higher levels of the department.
Much like the Oversight Committee’s request to the Archives, it’s unclear whether Garland will even be able to comply with the Senate given his limited perspective on his predecessor’s operations. Nonetheless, Durbin outlined what he considers the seriousness of the allegations against Trump and his top aides.
“We’re back to the list of Richard Nixon haters,” Durbin said.
Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.